ARLINGTON -- Sometimes it’s just not your day.
For the Rangers, that day was Friday night, when almost nothing went right for Texas as the club fell, 11-5, in the opener of a three-game set against the Dodgers at Globe Life Field. The score said it all, but between the lines, the home team looked far from the fundamentally sound club it’s been all season long.
Starter Andrew Heaney walked as many batters as he struck out (three) and surrendered a game-tying home run to Freddie Freeman. In a bases-loaded, one-out situation, Nathaniel Lowe slipped trying to get back to second base and ultimately got doubled off on a fly ball to right field to end the Rangers’ threat and keep the score at 9-5 in favor of the Dodgers.
All of those mishaps helped break Texas’ six-game win streak coming out of the All-Star break.
“We haven't done that, really all year,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the fundamental miscues. “We just made a couple of mistakes, and with Nate, he slipped trying to get back and that's what got him there. It's a game that you really have to flush, because, really, we've been playing well. We played well tonight, up until late in the ballgame. It just got away from us.”
The Rangers’ bullpen struggles resurfaced on Friday despite seemingly righting the ship during the win streak, and that was one of the biggest issues in the loss against the Dodgers. In the first six games out of the break, against Cleveland and Tampa Bay, Texas’ relievers posted a 2.66 ERA, with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a .205 opponent batting average.
Against the Dodgers, they struggled to hold onto a slim lead late in the game. Los Angeles made the Rangers’ relievers work hard, and the group had as many walks as strikeouts (five), combining to give up seven runs on eight hits in the final four innings of the game.
“They had some good at-bats,” Bochy said. “It was a rough day for a couple of guys in the bullpen. They had been throwing the ball well and just had an off day there. That's all. It was a good game until the last three innings. Actually, we had some good things happen, we just couldn't quite turn a double play. We couldn't stop them there. Every inning in the last three innings, they put up a crooked number.”
Lefty Brock Burke was the only reliever not to give up a run, though he faced just one batter, getting Yonny Hernández to fly out to end the sixth inning and leave the bases loaded. The trio of rookies in Alex Speas, Cody Bradford and Grant Anderson struggled to shut down the Dodgers' high-power offense. Speas didn’t record an out after giving up three walks and a single in the seventh.
Bochy was confident in all three rookies to be able to get outs when they needed to, but they struggled to keep Los Angeles' hitters off balance.
“Burke got the big out there [in the sixth], and where they were in the lineup, that was Speas’ spot,” Bochy said. “We look at the pockets, as I say, before we go into a game and we plan it. It really came down to me that he had trouble executing some pitches, but they [the Dodgers] did a good job too. And a couple of at-bats there, they were just putting it in play and getting hits off him.”
Despite the obvious struggles throughout the season, Bochy was quick to point out that he still believes in the bullpen’s ability to rebound in the coming games.
“It was one of those days,” Bochy said. “This game finds a way to humble you a little bit. We had a good run going there and this just got away from us. You give them credit. They had some good at-bats. That's a pretty good hitting ballclub. But the walks hurt us today. Even when Andrew was throwing, that one walk caught up with him. They do a good job offensively. We gotta make our pitches and we just weren't quite right tonight.”